Problem, Poison, Pursuit
Covetousness is an unlawful desire of what is not rightfully yours. We are to have passion and we can have desires, we can “covet” the right things, but they must be lawful and lawfully done. Covetousness will eat you up inside: you feed it, you feed it, you feed it, but it is never satisfied.
It was the sin of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-14) – you could be close to God and want more than God. This ought to show you that it takes God Himself living on the inside of you to avoid this sin.
It was the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6) – others that have done it want you to do it, misery loves company. Advertising to perceived needs is planting the poisoned seed of covetousness and it leads to people who are possessed with possessions and/or possessed by possessions.
It was the sin of David – it was his covetousness that led to his lust. Look at the illustration the prophet Nathan used to describe David’s sin (2 Samuel 12:1-8).
It was the sin of the Pharisees (Luke 16:10-14) – covetousness is not about money only. Covetousness: we want what God has or think we deserve what God gives to others.
Prosperity (possessions) / Power / Prestige (status) / Position / Praise (recognition)
I want to show you how covetousness is tied up with and turns into pride and lust
Covetousness – I want it (our flesh and the enemy says "I need it")
Pride – I deserve it (Pride confuses the issue by stating I do rightfully desire it)
Lust – I’ll do it (whatever it takes / I’d take it under the right circumstances / it’s worth it)
I want it because I deserve it and so I’ll do it (in my heart and I would with my hands)
This commandment sums up all the others, and even though we are not under the Law, it still describes an evil we are commanded to avoid in the New Testament. Galatians 5:14 – covetousness ruins this. This sin stifles the grace in our lives. Example: If we covet others’ position we will criticize them overly and unfairly and we will break the 9th commandment. We love to hear when someone else has got a problem because we wouldn’t want to be the only ones. Why? Because we covet those that don’t, but all do, but everything is not out in the open, and not everything should be, and that is why we gossip. We could go on and on, but the 10th commandment shows the heart impulse that causes us to break the other 9 commandments.
The sins of the senses are just the surface – Ears, eyes, hands, tongue, nose (critical, smell bad, nosy) – the root of all these is covetousness in our heart, that was the seed that was sown by Satan. The first nine commandments deal with action, but the tenth is about attitude. The first nine are about deeds the tenth is about desire. It is a heart issue – remember Romans 2:25-29 – until we deal with the heart all the rest are just rules.
Remember Romans 1 & 2 – some have not done those things but we all have wanted to do some of those things. Holiness starts in the heart not the hands therefore the root problem is your heart not your hands. Did you want to? Now if you did want to that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and do the thing, that would only compound the problem, but the issue is the heart. Remember the pattern we saw from Romans 1, it’s idolatry then immortality (Colossians 3:5 / Ephesians 5:5). We put something ahead of God and we act out of that impulse towards impurity.
Paul teaches us in Romans 7:7-8 that it was “Thou shall not covet” which made him aware of his own sinfulness. Surely what was true of Paul is true of us all.
We don’t joy in God, and we are not content in Him, and in what He has given us. Therefore we hinder what He would give us, because it will either spoil us, and so He does not give it, or we mess it up by going out from the lunch line, and we cannot get that thing we really wanted, just as He might have been about to give it to us. We look for our own way, and go round in circles. The pride that says we deserve it leads to lust, which says I deserve it now, or why do I have to wait, or why do I have to deal with this situation, or why am I here? Lust is “I want it my way and in my time, and that time is now”. It wants to go outside God's guidelines to find satisfaction. It covets what someone else has, which it thinks it deserves. In the unregenerate, the command makes us want to do it more, and so too, in a sense for the regenerate, but in the believer, the regenerate, they now have to power to use that thing as an occasion, not to sin, but to win. They can see that Christ does reign in their bodies, and that they can overcome sin, even the sin of covetousness, by the power of Christ.
Mark 7:15 – Is Jesus saying those things aren’t bad, and that it doesn’t matter what we put into our bodies and our minds? No, what He is saying is that it is the heart that makes us want those bad things in the first place. The sin within, the heart is the start. That stuff is bad, but it isn’t as bad as the heart, it is already corrupt, wanting that stuff only shows what is on the inside already.
James 1:13-15 – the sin is within. This is application gleaned from these verses, not strict exegesis.
Vs.9 – he is exalted when he stays humbled he knows he is low but he gives God praise anyway. He worships him from that position of lowliness because he knows that is what he will always be compared to God anyway, so no matter how high he is allowed to climb he keeps himself bowed down before the Lord.
Vs.10 – Psalm 116:6 / Psalm 34:6 / Matthew 5:3 – humble yourself
Vs.11 – his pursuits come to nothing. What is it that you are chasing after?
Vs.12 – overcome and you will be established (temporal not just eternal – vs.15). When he has been proved – Romans 12:1-2 – a living sacrifice receives God’s life. Isaiah 59:19 – the enemy comes in like a flood to water that seed, but God’s Holy Spirit standard is there. If you keep the standard you will be established and if you yield to God’s power then God’s life becomes more manifest in you, and rivers of living water will come out. Which water are you thirsting for?
Vs.17 – if God doesn’t give it then it isn’t good. You may not get everything you want down here but let me tell you if God doesn’t give it, you don’t want it.
Ezekiel 33:31 – we can be going to church and only going through the motions as we saw in Romans 2:25-29 – coming to hear and thinking it will sink in, like osmosis, without applying it and acting in accordance with it, as if it were automatic.
Friends, just because God is sovereign doesn’t mean we can be static; God ordains the end, but also the means to that end (James 1:22-25). Being satisfied in Christ doesn’t mean satisfied with our Christian life. This is a lawful desire. We press on and press in; we must pursue holiness.
Hebrews 12:14 / James 1:11 – It isn’t one prayer and then poof it’s gone, no, we have to learn, and cultivate godliness, we need new practices and new pursuits – This is the knowledge of God and to endure the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) and get that crown of life, to have God’s life more manifest in you, you need to do 2 Corinthians 10:5 – that is the way out but eventually the door closes. If you don’t take the fork off the road you won’t get off until your dead in that sin.
Identity – Luke 12:15 – I am not just this or that I am in Christ, that is how I identify myself, not by my possessions or my position or my prestige or my power, I am going higher than that! Psalm 23 – antidote for covetousness – if we follow the Lord’s lead we will be satisfied.
Thankfulness – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – be thankful when you don’t need something otherwise the only way for Him to get thankfulness from you is to put you in a situation of need.
Contentment – Hebrews 13:5 (KJV) – we compare our situations with some imaginary perfect one and we get dissatisfied. Someone else’s gain is not your loss. Learn to love what God has done in other people’s lives. We need to be grateful for what others have and for their blessings.
You might be thinking, or may have thought, “He hasn’t done much for me”, well go back and look, are you still in that pit of sin you were in before? We have grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, haven’t we? This is a reason why we need memorials: not to make them shrines but to realize where we came from, and to remind us of where we are going.
If you have a problem the problem isn’t God the problem is you. How are you doing? “Better than I deserve.” The next breath that I am going to take is not something that is mine by right, any more than the pulsing of my heart is anything that I have done something to earn. So being allowed to live – let alone being saved by the sacrifice of Jesus – is much, much, more than I deserve. We get Mercy (we don’t get what we do deserve, hell) and Grace (we do get what we don’t deserve, heaven). So given all these things for which we have to be grateful, why is it that the quality and extent of our worship of Jesus remains so much less than He deserves from us? Worship is a key.
It is in our fallen nature to hold on tight to what we get. A cure for that is to be a giver. Whatever God has blessed you with give some to others and back to God. If it is money, then give money, if it is time, then time, if it is talent, then talent. Lets look at Jesus (Matthew 4 / Philippians 2:6): He didn’t covet things unlawfully. He didn’t hold on to what He had. He had all the riches of heaven but the only thing He held on to was the Father. What are you holding on to today? What is your desire today? What are you pursuing after? What is it that you want that Jesus doesn’t have (Romans 8:32 / Ephesians 1:3 / Colossians 3:1-3 / James 1:17 / Hebrews 12:1-2)?
Psalm 119:36 – pray that God would cause us to long for His to obey His Word. Proverbs 3:13-14 / 23:23 – buy the truth – don’t trade the Word of God for anything on earth. Don’t let anyone steal your treasure or trade it for that demon seed.